Creating a Happy, Colorful, Handmade Home & life on the shores of lake superior

September 30, 2016

Pumpkin Spice S'mores + A Night Around the Campfire

The DIY welded fire pit Hubby and I made earlier this year might be my favorite project to date because it made our summer way more fun!  We definitely used our fire pit so much more this year than previous summers because it's infinitely more inviting now.  Sometimes I'm kind of jealous of the insanely expensive, elaborate and gorgeous landscaping and decks other bloggers have - I feel like a real country bumpkin with my janky dock, janky gasoline shed and leaning flag pole.  But the green eyed monster never stays long - I'm just so grateful for our hilarious little gravel pit because I'm no longer sitting with the grass tickling my ankles (ticks!).  Really, it's the little things.

DIY Fire Pit
Lake Sunset with Sailboat

If you've been reading the blog or following me on Instagram for awhile, you might have gleaned that I feel a bit lukewarm about fall.  Sure, the changing leaves are beautiful, but fall signals the end of summer (my favorite season) and the dreaded arrival of winter (my least favorite season).  Until the snow flies, I'm still hanging on to summer as best I can!  Hubby and I are still sailing until the club forces us to haul out and we're enjoying as many lake sunsets as we can before they disappear.  Luckily our new fire pit is huge, so I can build a real rager to keep warm on chilly fall nights.

Modern Metal Fire Pit DIY
Roasting S'Mores
Campfire with S'mores

When Wayfair invited me to share my ideal evening by the campfire, I jumped at the chance to make some s'mores and hang out by the lake - taking you with me as best I can!  You have only seen the fire pit in its pristine, just-made state so I thought it would be fun to show you how we really use the fire pit and how it's weathered the summer - plus share some take home tips and products (including some for my apartment dwelling or fire pit-less friends).

Fireside Fun

You probably spotted that the Eames chairs I had in front of the fire pit moved to the guesthouse after I painted the trim turquoise.  They looked so good lakeside but I quickly realized two problems: they filled with water when it rained and when we had friends and family over, we had to add some mismatched chairs and we were tired of lugging chairs back and forth.  Instead, we moved the Eames chairs to the sheltered guesthouse deck, where they are perfect for overnight guests to chill with a coffee alone (or handy extra seating by the lake if we need it).  For the fire pit, we lugged down our patio chairs, which were languishing in the garage because we only use two on the deck (we positioned the patio table so people can sit on the built-in deck benches on one side).  I'd love a set of turquoise Adirondack chairs, but I'm worried we won't be able to see the fire pit once we're sitting lower - something folks with similar, walled fire pits have complained to me about.  We can see every last ember perfectly, so for right now we're making do with the chairs we have because they're so comfy (and we already owned them, so the price was right).

Lakeside Fire Pit Lake Life
Roasting S'Mores

When we use the fire pit, it's too often a full spread!  We create a makeshift table, bring out a pot of tea with ceramic mugs, but then panic and use melamine plates for snacks.  S'more ingredients and pre-cooked sausages are stored in covered containers so we can feast, but the flies can't.  We camp out (pardon the pun) all night, often eating dinner beside the fire pit too - like the day we snapped these photos.  Hubby doesn't love marshmallows like I do, so he'll often heat up some pre-cooked sausages as a snack, which is something my diabetic Dad appreciates too.


Now that we've really used our fire pit area, I have a list of things I want for next year, including a couple of garden stools to use as side tables beside the chairs, real s'mores roasting sticks (Szuka chews the ones Hubby lovingly whittles for us), a nicer container for carrying/storing firewood (we leave our janky wheelbarrow parked nearby), some pretty outdoor lanterns for when we're out way past sunset, and campfire tongs (we both reach in like idiots).  And maybe those Adirondack chairs after all!

Lake Fire Pit

One of the best parts about hanging out by the fire pit is the s'mores.  Did I mention s'mores yet?  I really have no idea what is wrong with Hubby and his marshmallow loathing.

Would you pick a sausage over a roasted marshmallow??? 

Marshmallows

In the last year or so I've been trying to really reduce my sugar intake and I've experimented a lot with low sugar and sugar-free baking, but I just love s'mores so much.  They are my weakness, my downfall.  I used to make them inside in the winter, in front of our wood burning fireplace, which cracks Hubby up.  I recently decided to try making them in the oven - which turned out to be SO easy (oh dear).

Because they're so easy to whip up, I've been experimenting with new flavor combinations.

Peanut Butter S'Mores

Among my favorites: peanut butter cookies or ginger spice cookies in lieu of graham crackers (to the latter, I add a sprinkling of pumpkin pie spice too).

Ginger Spice Cookie S'mores

In case you ever looked at a s'more and thought, "that's not enough sugar!" caramilk bar squares instead of plain chocolate make a ridiculously delicious treat - just be careful because the caramilk can get scathingly hot in the oven s'more variety, but they're just right fireside.

Caramilk Bar S'mores
Caramilk bar s'more

My current favorite is a pumpkin pie s'mores.  I'm not even a PSL fan, but I bought some canned pumpkin for smoothies because I'm trying really hard to embrace fall this year and do all of the things fall-loving folks love: wearing boots too early (I wear sandals till it snows usually), eating copious amounts of pumpkin, and decorating in an autumnal fashion.

I tried a dollop of canned pumpkin in an oven s'more with a sprinkling of pumpkin pie spice (probably a little too fussy to assemble fireside).  SO delicious!  Starting to get what the fuss with fall is all about...

Oven S'mores

I just pop two graham crackers in the oven at 350 degrees Celsius for 5 minutes (or until the marshmallow swells a bit and starts to look toasty).  Then I sprinkle on the spice, add a teaspoon of pumpkin puree and close the s'more quickly to let the pumpkin warm up.  It's super addictive, so I really don't recommend trying this at home...

Pumpkin Spice S'mores
Pumpkin Spice S'more
Pumpkin Spice S'mores

I wanted to share this tip because I know so many of you are apartment dwellers or can't have a fire pit (or frankly, don't want one because it takes days to wash the smoke smell out of hair - I totally get it).  If you're skipping the fall campfires but crave that cozy ambiance, I recommend lighting a campfire scented candle, and bundling up with a blanket, mug of tea and an oven s'more! 

Turquoise Mug

Really, any excuse for a s'more.

This post was sponsored by Wayfair, but all thoughts, opinions, product selections, and s'mores tangents are my own.  Thanks for supporting the brands that make blogging possible for me - I can't tell you how much I appreciate you as readers!
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September 29, 2016

Highs and Lows Sailing Our Ticon 30 on Lake Superior

Sailing at Sunset

Hubby and I launched our new-to-us Ticon 30 sailboat a lot later than we expected, largely because there was so much work to do!  A sailboat is a lot like a house: there's always something to repair or tinker with, and so we spent much of the summer in our boat on land, which made us laugh.  It still had a waterfront view, I guess.  The reason we finally did launch was not because we felt ready, but because the boat launch was getting a new concrete pad poured.  Because it would be unusable for the rest of the summer, it was either launch when we did or not at all.  Secretly I'm happy we had that extra push because I think part of the delay was just a little bit of nervousness.  Although we had a boat inspection, for all we knew the boat didn't even float!  Both of us envisioned hopping in and promptly sinking to the bottom of Lake Superior.

Luckily everything went as planned!  The launch went pretty smoothly and we knew what we were in for because we had seen the process while boat shopping:

Boat Travel Lift Crane

A huge boat travel lift came to our storage spot and moved the sailboat to the water.  I wanted to cheer when the engine turned on and the boat floated, but I played it cool.  Some fellow Yacht Club members were kind enough to help us launch, with only a minimal amount of heckling.

I might have failed to mention that, from the outside, our boat is an ugly little thing.  Beige fiberglass, brown hull, forest green late 80s bimini... We've already given the inside a makeover and we'll get to the outside at some point - we both love the idea of a black hull and black sails.  But most nights I repeatedly whisper "turquoise boat, turquoise boat" while Hubby sleeps.  I'm wondering how much longer I have to do this until he wakes up one morning, unable to shake the idea of a turquoise hull.

After the boat was in the water it was up to us to get the mast on, which took my Mom, Dad, Grandpa, Hubs and I the better part of an afternoon.  I got to operate the hoist (which is a lot less impressive than it seems - just a toggle switch for up and down):

Hoist for Mast

It was grueling getting that mast up!  At one point my Mom was steadying the mast by hanging onto a rope to keep it from swinging as Hubby and my Dad tried to position it.  As I lifted the mast with the hoist, Mom's length of rope shortened but she didn't let go or ask for help.  At one point I saw her sort of leap and swing by in front of me, frantically gripping the last four inches of rope, toes barely hitting the gravel.  She's tenacious, that's for sure (Mandelbaum Mom I call her).

The rigging took another day as we tried to figure out what goes where.  This is our second sailboat, but our first - a 16 foot Fireball - was much smaller and we were already accustomed to it.  Luckily Hubby's Grandpa (the same one who painted our art) was an avid sailor so Hubby knows his way around a boat - that makes one of us.

Sail Against Blue Sky

Our first sail made us wonder why the heck we had waited so long to launch because it was just perfectly idyllic!  It was dusk, the weather was beautiful, the sailing was amazing, and we were just beaming at one another.  It was so peaceful and so much more comfortable than our last sailboat, which was tiny so we always got totally soaked and spent most of the time crouch uncomfortably.

Sunset Sailing

Everything was beautiful - even the industrial area near the Yacht Club looked amazing from the water at dusk.

Sunset

This is the life, I thought, feeling a lot of gratitude for essentially living in one of those smarmy motivational posters I always pin on Pinterest.

But, alas, Lake Superior is not always so nice to unsuspecting sailors like us.

Lake Superior Inky Water

Cue the ominous music in the Lifetime movie of my life.

We never sailed our boat home to the lakehouse as planned, because the day we planned to sail was AWFUL!  Our tow line for the inflatable dinghy got caught in the engine but we didn't know that, so we were frantically trying to figure out why the heck we were dead in the water.  (Lesson learned: the dinghy line should always be of the floating variety.)

Sailing Lake Superior

The channel was super windy and wavy and we were about to crash our new boat into the docks.  An older gentleman was sitting on his boat, shouting instructions but we couldn't hear him so he was just a huge distraction - until he finally communicated the problem to us (thanks!).  Before we got it, Hubby went sprinting to the bow to drop the anchor - which we'd never used, so it was a nightmare to release and we missed a collision by inches.  I was trying to steer the boat but it was my first time and I had two people yelling competing instructions at me.  I was certain I'd crash a tear a big hole in the side.  We finally sorted out the problem, got out of the channel and hoisted the sails, only to find ourselves trapped in 28km/hr gusting winds and giant swells which almost engulfed us.  It was fun at first but then the sailing became really terrifying as it felt nearly impossible to stay in the cockpit.  I was certain one of us would be thrown out.  We tightened our life jackets and white-knuckled it for an hour or so before turning around and heading back to the Yacht Club, where strong winds kept pushing us around.  We were sort of close to the slip when Hubby hollered at me to run and jump off the bow of the boat with the dock line as the boat lurched wildly.  I looked at the slip, which seemed too far to jump to, and yelled back, "you want me to what now?"  I paused, terrified of missing the slip and cracking my coconut open.  All of a sudden, out of the corner of my eye, I see Hubby, previously manning the steering wheel, race by me and leap off the boat himself.


I seriously love this guy. (He's wearing an "Arrrbucks" pirate shirt - "bilge brewed").

After we collected ourselves, surveyed the minor damage (she needs a new paint job anyway - turquooooiiisssseeee) and grabbed a hot coffee, I think we were both thinking, "well sh*t."  Neither of us were looking forward to the 5 to 7 hour journey home, having just had our asses handed to us. 

Happily, we were lucky enough to be able to rent a slip for the rest of the season!

Dock Rope

I think the club pitied us newbies because there's usually a waiting list - years long - for slips.  When we were "initiated" into the club there was an agonizingly long 45 minute lecture about how we wouldn't get a slip and I was all, "yeah, yeah we don't need one we're mooring on our bay" so I really had to eat crow but it was worth it.  Am I ever happy that Hubby thought my "buy a boat in Toronto and sail it home" idea was ridiculous.  "Too epic," he called it (that was putting it nicely).

Laker

But subsequent sailing adventures have been a lot of fun!  

I wish the sailing season wasn't winding down already because I feel like we're only just getting the hang of it.  We'll be ready for next year though, and we'll be able to launch a lot earlier because shopping for, buying, and fixing up the boat consumed a lot of our spring and summer.  I'm excited to actually bring the boat home to our bay next year.  A neighbor made us a really cool mooring anchor that screws into the ground.  To get prepared, we're thinking about signing up for sailing lessons but in the meantime we've been taking the Ticon out in inclement weather so the next time we end up in huge swells, we won't be caught off guard.  Hubby always tries to aim for nice days but I tell him that while we're sailing from the club and have the luxury of staying close to shore, we should sail in any weather so we learn how to handle the boat no matter what Lake Superior throws at us.

Sailing Lake Superior
Sailboats

P.S.  How adorable is the Yacht Club?  There's a washroom with shower facilities and a kitchen (not pictured) that is seriously nicer than mine.  They literally had to remove the couches because some dudes were just living here.

Retro Yacht Club

It has tulip tables, tulip tables
Read more »
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